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Reverse Heart Transplant Surgery On A Little Girl Makes History

by Medindia Content Team on  April 18, 2006 at 12:00 PM Organ Donation News   - G J E 4
Reverse Heart Transplant Surgery On A Little Girl Makes History
A 12-year-old schoolgirl Hannah Clark from Mountain Ash in South Wales has undergone an astonishing 'reverse' heart. The youngster had her first heart transplant ten years ago, carried out by transplant pioneer Sir Magdi Yacoub. The girl then enjoyed good health with the donor heart that Sir Magdi had transplanted 10 years ago in a lifesaving operation.
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Sir Magdi as an unusual case decided to leave Hannah's original heart in place still functioning in the hope that it would recover, and he 'piggybacked' the donor heart next to it. Explaining that a transplant patient's original heart was not normally left inside the body, but he and his team had thought ahead in Clark's case. He stated that at that time they thought that she had this very severe muscle disease and there was the outside possibility that her heart would recover.

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In November a cardiologist found that her body was rejecting the organ. It was found that Clark had been suffering from cardiomyopathy, which made her heart double in size and threaten to fail within a year. Clark's mother Elizabeth said surgeons at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London were initially reluctant to remove the donor heart and reconnect the dormant one it had never been done before. They later then agreed to undertake the procedure with the help of Sir Magdi.

Sir Magdi Yacoub advised the surgeons who carried out the four-hour operation on Hannah Clark, which was the first of its kind in Britain this February. The doctor, who came out of retirement at the request of the girl's parents, spoke to the BBC about how he helped remove a 12-year-old girl's donor heart, which she had started to reject, and restart her own, dormant heart in a pioneering operation in London. He told them that her own heart has recovered, that their initial idea had worked out and that it was such absolutely wonderful news. He told them that now she is a happy little girl with her own normal heart, with all complications gone; this is a very happy ending indeed. He also stated that the other benefit of this operation is that she will not longer have to take the strong anti-rejection drugs that were necessary as long as she had the donor heart.

Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director of the British Heart Foundation (BHF), hailed the outcome as an "exciting and important event". He said that its Surgeons like BHF Professor Sir Magdi Yacoub who had always thought for a long time that if a heart is failing because of acute inflammation, it might be able to recover if rested. And this is exactly what seems to have happened in this case, he noted. He explained that the donor, or "piggy back", heart enabled the patient's own organ to take a rest. He stated that this is a great example of how a pioneering and novel approach to a medical problem can lead to surprising results and could teach us a lot about how some heart diseases progress, explaining how in the past, patients with inflamed hearts either died or were transplanted before their own hearts had any chance of recovery.

Expecting that the operation would take at least take eight hours, Elizabeth Clark said, that her daughter was out in just four. She explained that the procedure went so well that the girl was able to return home within five days instead of being in intensive for months, as she feared. She said that nobody thought she would be like she is now. She is just enjoying her life and is looking forward to going back school after Easter, she said.

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